News Releases

Jul 02 2014

Sen. Moran Receives Commitment from Acting VA Secretary on Future of ARCH Program

"I am pleased you understand that access to quality care is vital for the health and well-being of all veterans; particularly those who are underserved and struggle to receive the care they deserve in rural areas."

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, was recently alerted to plans by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to instruct all Access Received Closer to Home (ARCH) pilot program sites – including the site in Pratt, Kansas – to send letters to veterans notifying them that their medical services through ARCH would be ending this fall. Sen. Moran immediately reached out to acting Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Sloan Gibson and requested these letters be halted given the VA’s continued public statements to Congress that the future of the successful ARCH program has not been decided. Hours later, Sen. Moran received word that VHA Assistant Deputy Undersecretary for Health for Administrative Operations Philip Matkovsky put a hold on sending letters to veterans regarding the future of their medical services through ARCH.

In light of VHA’s unpredictable decisions about the future of ARCH, Sen. Moran spoke personally with acting Secretary Gibson last Friday, June 27, 2014, to make certain he was personally involved in assuring that veterans currently receiving medical services through ARCH will continue to receive those medical services. Today, Sen. Moran sent a follow up letter to acting Secretary Gibson calling for his commitment to providing medical services through ARCH as he expressed during their phone conversation.

"I am pleased you understand that access to quality care is vital for the health and well-being of all veterans; particularly those who are underserved and struggle to receive the care they deserve in rural areas," Sen. Moran wrote to acting Sec. Gibson. "As we continue to work together to make certain rural veterans have access to quality care, I’d like to confirm the assurance you offered during our conversation that veterans currently receiving medical services through ARCH will continue to receive those medical services. Veterans from the five ARCH pilot sites are overwhelmingly satisfied with the care they receive through ARCH, and are counting on you to make certain they continue to receive quality care closer to home."

Since 2011, the ARCH pilot program has been operating in five rural sites across the country including Pratt, Kansas. ARCH serves rural veterans by giving them access to health care from a community provider close to home instead of traveling hundreds of miles to seek care at a VA facility. Independent analysis shows that more than 90 percent of veterans who received primary care services through ARCH are “completely satisfied,” and cite significantly shortened travel times to receive care. Sen. Moran has repeatedly asked VA officials – including Sec. Shinseki directly at a March 2014 SVAC hearing – about the future of the successful ARCH program which is set to expire in September 2014. Instead of the straightforward analysis promised by Sec. Shinseki, Sen. Moran has only received empty promises and non-answers from the VA. Sources outside the VA now tell the Senator that the national program director for ARCH directed the five pilot sites several months ago to begin contacting veterans who participate in ARCH to let them know the program would be ending. The VHA has consistently given Congress the impression they were waiting on analysis about the success of the program to inform their decision about extending the program and all along that has been a misleading storyline. At a time when the VA says it is looking for ways to “accelerate access to care” for veterans, the VHA made an intentional decision not to inform Congress about their plans to discontinue this successful program. 

Please see Sen. Moran’s full letter to the acting VA secretary below or click here:

The Honorable Sloan Gibson

Acting Secretary

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Ave, N. W. 

Washington, D.C. 20420

Dear Secretary Gibson,

I appreciate your willingness to discuss the pilot project known as Access Received Closer to Home or ARCH – an issue that is incredibly important to me as it supports hundreds of rural veterans in my home state of Kansas. During our conversation on Friday, June 27, 2014, we had the opportunity to address the success of ARCH and my growing concern that rural veterans who currently benefit from access to care in their communities through ARCH will soon experience a lapse in care due to the decision by the Veteran Health Administration (VHA) to unnecessarily end medical services accessed through ARCH for veterans in the five pilot locations. 

I am pleased you understand that access to quality care is vital for the health and well-being of all veterans; particularly those who are underserved and struggle to receive the care they deserve in rural areas. As we continue to work together to make certain rural veterans have access to quality care, I’d like to confirm the assurance you offered during our conversation that veterans currently receiving medical services through ARCH will continue to receive those medical services. 

Veterans from the five ARCH pilot sites are overwhelmingly satisfied with the care they receive through ARCH, and are counting on you to make certain they continue to receive quality care closer to home. No veteran should struggle to access and receive timely, quality care just because of where they live, which is why ARCH is so critical. Hundreds of veterans are anxious about the VHA’s plans to end ARCH, and are concerned their medical care will suffer as a result. 

I strongly urge you to put an end to their worries by confirming your plan to use existing authorities, or whatever means available, to ensure the continuation of their medical services through ARCH. I look forward to our next conversation and your timely response to this request. 

Sincerely,

Jerry Moran

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